New laws aim to provide better access to feminine hygiene products in Illinois

New laws aim to provide better access to feminine hygiene products in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a package of bills into law to try to make feminine hygiene products more accessible in Illinois.

One measure, House Bill 641, requires all public universities and community colleges to provide free feminine hygiene products in campus bathrooms.

“Approximately half our population experiences menstruation throughout a significant portion of their lifetimes,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville. “This is a normal function of our biology and needs to be seen and treated as such.

During floor debate of the bill, Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, noted that Southern Illinois University tried a similar program but stopped because of problems with theft.

“How much, who pays and whose expense?” said Tracy. “We also have to stop creating a culture that everything is free, so let’s just take it.”

College and university board of trustees will decide how much funding is needed to meet the new requirement.

Also signed into law was the Feminine Hygiene Products for the Homeless Act, which requires all homeless shelters granting temporary housing assistance to women and youth to provide products such as sanitary napkins and tampons free of charge if their budget allows.

“Not providing such an essential need found within feminine hygiene products to some of our most vulnerable citizens is shameful and will no longer happen in Illinois,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Christopher Belt, D-Swansea.

The bill does not include any type of enforcement or penalties to shelters that do not provide the products because of the possibility the funds may not be in the facility’s general budget.

The third bill signed into law was House Bill 155, which requires the Illinois Department of Human Services to apply for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. The waiver would allow recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to use those programs for diapers and menstrual hygiene products.

“Across the country, one in four women regularly struggle to purchase menstrual products due to lack of income,” said state Rep. Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora. “Today, Illinois is taking steps to help low-income women in our state overcome that challenge.”

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